President Joe Biden’s administration will appeal the April 18 ruling that struck down the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) mask mandate, if the CDC recommends an appeal, the Department of Justice announced Tuesday.
The department and the CDC “disagree with the district court’s decision and will appeal, subject to CDC’s conclusion that the order remains necessary for public health,” Anthony Coley, an agency spokesman, said in a statement.
The CDC did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Xavier Becerra, Biden’s health secretary, told reporters in Nevada earlier in the day that the administration was leaning toward appealing. “We are right now in the process of deciding, and we likely will appeal that ruling, but stay tuned,” he said.
Becerra oversees the Department of Health and Human Services. The CDC is an office inside the department.
The federal judge also ruled that the CDC lacks the statutory authority to compel people to wear masks on federal transportation such as airplanes.
Coley said that the Department of Justice “continues to believe that the order requiring masking in the transportation corridor is a valid exercise of the authority Congress has given CDC to protect the public health.”
“That is an important authority the Department will continue to work to preserve,” it added.
Before the ruling, the CDC had extended the mandate ahead of its scheduled April 18 expiration to May 3.
“In order to assess the potential impact the rise of cases has on severe disease, including hospitalizations and deaths, and health care system capacity, the CDC order will remain in place at this time,” the agency said in a statement at the time.
That assessment will still take place, according to Coley.
“If CDC concludes that a mandatory order remains necessary for the public’s health after that assessment, the Department of Justice will appeal the district court’s decision,” he said.
The mask mandate is not being enforced due to Mizelle’s ruling, though federal officials continue to recommend people wear masks on indoor transportation.
White House press secretary Jen Psaki told reporters on board Air Force One that the White House “would advise all Americans” to follow the recommendations.
Biden, asked in New Hampshire whether individuals should continue wearing masks, said that it was “up to them.”
The White House was requiring all passengers on Air Force One to wear masks despite the ruling. Biden boarded wearing a black mask.
Biden did not wear a mask while talking to reporters. He was outdoors with officials from the New Hampshire Port Authority.
The president also forwent a mask while speaking indoors in Portsmouth or while shaking hands and talking with people after delivering a speech.
Becerra said the administration is respecting the ruling but that he will “follow the science” and encouraged people to wear masks.
The official appeared at an event at the Las Vegas Convention Center with Nevada Gov. Steve Sisolak, a Democrat. Neither Becerra nor Sisolak was wearing face coverings.